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Uncertainty looms large over the business prospects of the Cochin Special Economic Zone (CSEZ), Kakkanad, as it has been functioning for the past eight months without a new chief. According to sources, the institute is facing such a dilemma for the first time since its inception in 1984.

The absence of a Development Commissioner (DC), who is the overall authority of the CSEZ, has put many activities on hold. Though the central government had appointed commissioners on ad-hoc deputation twice, sources said that was only a temporary solution. "The ad-hoc DCs appointed twice by the Union Ministry of Commerce were based at Vishakapattanam. In the event of major issues which called for an immediate addressal, the ad-hoc DCs were not able to tackle them effectively. The co-ordination with other authorities faced difficulties," said a highly-placed CSEZ official.

The standoff between the customs authorities and CSEZ over the inspection of transshipment containers at the International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) has reportedly got worsened in the absence of a DC. The Customs and the CSEZ authorities have been at loggerheads ever since the commissioning of the ICTT. The former had sought permission to inspect the transshipment cargo, but this was unacceptable to the CSEZ authorities who maintained that the entry to ICTT was restricted because the area came under the SEZ Act. "Foreign investors have been lured to CSEZ by offering amenities such as uninterrupted power and water supply and a strike-free environment. However, state government has now imposed a load-shedding on CSEZ. To take this issue up with the state government, we do not have a chief," sources said.

The companies under CSEZ together contribute `30,000 crore to the exchequer. There are about 160 companies under the CSEZ with 15,000 employees. Appointing a DC is the need of the hour, and the lethargy of the concerned authorities is deplorable, they added.